The Ginger Gent
Book Review: “Forward” by Lisa Maas
No two losses are ever the same, just as no two experiences of loss are either. Even so, similar is close enough. As a single mom coming off two weeks of pneumonia for The Ginger Gent (my seven-year-old son) and I, we were behind the eight ball of life and that was before batshit crazy happened.
I had not even read the summary of the book when I picked up Lisa Maas’ graphic novel “Forward” published by Arsenal Pulp Press, therefore I railroaded myself into literally being face-to-face with a picture of my loss when Ali, the lesbian widow of this book arrived. Ouch.This was the character I most identified with, but the magic of this portrait of queer loss was that I recognized myself in many of the characters. Like Rayanne cycling through the loneliness, indecision and disheartened emotions after a painful breakup.
Then again, I also saw my life reflected in her straight friend Jaydeen, the mom just trying to eak out some grown up time and freedom with a sticky toddler in tow, parroting things like “yezbians.” Yes, I nearly dropped the book, I laughed so hard. All kinds of loss, but all recognizable as they are in fact universal.
In this three-part graphic novel I think the way Maas intertwines or “enmeshes” (Ali would cringe at this) these characters together really demonstrates the central crux of the story. We may feel alone, we may fight it, we may isolate ourselves and fight reemergence, but whether or not we acknowledge it, we are all a part of each others story. Even the “Smug Love Pushers” which I concur is the best name for a band!
Some illustration panels leap off the page with striking intrusions of a fantasy in one of the characters minds in blue. Also Ali speaking to her late partner, remembering their life together like an invisible blueprint over her current one, rang so true and were made even more striking in sepia panels. I blew my nose as I watched this experience, going through the motions of healing, taking off her ring, trying to socialize without feeling like a black hole, the “trainwrecky” new experiences of life. Soon the blue and septia panels start living on the same pages and I definitely felt a visceral sensation of time and forward motion.
By the time Ali and Rayanne got to comparing the heart to Hermione’s bag and “the Room of Requirement” I was done. Kara (my wife’s name that happens to appear twice in this novel) and I had an obsession with Harry Potter. Life will always be comforting and painful in the same measure. The awkwardness, the guilt of living your life while also having to regularly jump back, through memory and circumstance, into the life you had does not feel like life. However Maas left me with the brilliant truth that it may not be pretty, and it may not be fun, and it may in fact be torturous, but we can find our way through loss to the life beyond, even if we do nothing but slowly move forward. A great read!
About the Author
Kelly Wilk is a freelance writer and single mom to a seven-year-old, red-headed, Irish, Aries boy who is growing up way too fast. Follow them on PinkPlayMags' parenting blog "The Ginger Gent" (www.pinkplaymags.com). Also, find Kelly on her own website and blog, Brave. Creative. Me at www.kellywilk.ca.